17 of Nature’s Most Potent Antioxidants

Written by Nikita Andester and updated on January 6, 2019
17 of Nature’s Most Potent Antioxidants

"Antioxidant" is a buzz word stamped across seemingly endless foods and supplements, making it hard to navigate which ones pack a punch – and which ones are all hype.

To help make your wellness journey less hazy, here are fifteen scientifically-backed, potent antioxidants to incorporate into your diet for the new year.

1. Bilberry

Packed with flavonoids and thought to remedy retinal problems, bilberry is loaded with antioxidant power for circulation and diabetes health.

2. Astaxanthin

Easier to eat than it is to pronounce, astaxanthin is at the head of the pack when you put the word “antioxidant” into your search bar. A carotenoid (the pigment that makes certain plants, algae, or flamingos pink or orange), astaxanthin is a league above the others according to studies done on its efficacy as an antioxidant combatting free radicals.

3. Pine Bark

A potent plant, pine bark boasts antioxidants aplenty, improving circulation and binding to your collagen to keep you feeling your best. Pine bark has been show to block free radicals before causing stress to your organs, and is known as a wonder plant that can do everything from helping joint flexibility to keeping your skin aglow. Sign me up!

4. Resveratrol

A boon granted to wine lovers worldwide, resveratrol is a compound found in grapes and shown in countless studies to combat aging. This antioxidant compound crops up in dark foods and fruits like berries, wine, and cacao, but is most notably potent in red wine thanks to the fermentation process. On that note, I’ll opt for another (organic) glass, thank you very much! 

A great but little-known antioxidant cocktail that contains red wine extracts, pine bark extracts, bilberry and other potent antioxidants is Isotonix OPC-3.  

5. Blueberries

Recent studies have come out pointing to blueberries as the single highest source of antioxidants out of all other foods. Most of the health benefits can be found in the skins, so opt for lowbush or “wild” blueberries. Since they’re smaller, you eat more of the skins per cup of blueberries, reaping the greatest health benefits.

Local growers in the northeast, like Blue Barrens Farm in Maine, offer antioxidant-rich, organic berries loaded with health benefits. And don’t be fooled: although megacompanies like Wyman’s have “wild” plastered on the bags, it doesn’t mean they aren’t sprayed. These days, “wild” blueberries simply means lowbush berries. Organic is best.

6. Acai

Keeping up with the other dark berries, look no further than acai. A packed superfood loaded with antioxidants, acai is known as a powerhouse when it comes to absorbing free radicals. According to one study, these small and mighty berries absorb more peroxyl radicals than any other food out there.

7. Goji

Goji berries have been touted for millennia as a gift to heart health, clarity, and energy. The thing that sets these berries in a league of their own, however, is their amino acid content. Unlike most other plants, goji berries contain all eleven essential amino acids – the ones our bodies can’t produce on their own. Combined with their antioxidant pa-zing, these berries take the stage as one remarkable superfood.

8. Mushrooms

Porcini mushrooms, a wild variety, have been found to be the most potent carriers of antioxidants out of all other mushrooms. But if all you have in your produce aisles are plain old button mushrooms, throw them in the cart with your other antioxidant-rich goodies! Mushrooms have been shown to have boosted antioxidant properties regardless of variety. Another great thing? These benefits are heat stable, meaning you can cook these babies to your heart’s content and enjoy their health benefits in peace.

9. Dark green veggies

You’ve been told to eat your greens a million times, so I’ll keep this one quick: dark, leafy greens are one of the most healthful things you can put into your body. Rich in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, they are a sure way to keep your body at its youthful, energized finest. Have you enjoyed a salad yet today?

10. Dark chocolate

You read that right. Cacao, including its iteration as dark chocolate, has antioxidants a-plenty. What’s important to note here is that in the studies conducted on it, milk – even as a separate glass – interfered with the body’s ability to absorb the beneficial antioxidants of dark chocolate. So if you want to enjoy dessert without the guilt, have a few squares of dark chocolate and wash it down with a glass of red wine.

11. Pecans

While we’re on a roll with the more decadent sources of antioxidants, it would be amiss to leave out pecans. Recent studies have emerged crowning pecans as the leaders in antioxidants out of all other nuts. Usually thought of as a pie filling or an added crunch to brownies, pecans are a great way to incorporate fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Pair those with some dark chocolate and red wine after a hearty salad, and you’ve got yourself some delectable, healthy dessert.

12. Cranberries

Another tasty treat, cranberries are bursting with flavor – and antioxidants. The only berry that tops cranberries in their performance are blueberries, but only by a hair. Take these berries out of the holidays and enjoy them year-round, incorporated into muffins or smoothies, or as a bright note in savory entrees. When possible, opt for fresh or frozen ones, as dried cranberries often have added sugars.

13. Ginger

Potent and vibrant, ginger is a show-stealing antioxidant food with versatile uses. Pour boiling water over slivered ginger for tea, throw it into a fresh juice, or blend it into a salad dressing to enjoy both the flavor and the health benefits.

14. Cilantro

Cilantro. You either love it or you hate it. Regardless of your opinion, there’s no denying that cilantro is packed with antioxidants – most notably quercetin, a flavonoid shown to be anti-cancerous, anti-inflammatory, and powerful in combatting heart disease. Make yourself some pico de gallo and chow down!

15. Green Tea

While all tea has some amount of antioxidants, green tea tops the charts. What sets it apart from the black varieties is its high level of catechins – antioxidants that fight or prevent cell damage. Try replacing that second cup of joe in the morning with some green tea and reap the benefits – and savor the flavor.

16. CoQ10

A supplement that’s in a league of its own, CoQ10 is an antioxidant your body naturally produces in youth, but tapers as you age. Taking a CoQ10 supplement is a great way to boost the antioxidants that keep your body, especially your heart, in good repair.

17. Vitamin C

The most famous of the antioxidants, Vitamin C is the U.S. go-to for immune boosting, probably in part due to its antioxidant content. Enjoy those winter tangerines, oranges, and grapefruits, and remember that fresh is best if you want to get the most benefit.

These fifteen foods and supplements are a powerful way to pack your diet with health benefits, but if you feel lost at the grocery store, just remember G-BOMBS for your diet – that’s greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds. As long as you’re eating those every day, it’s hard to go wrong.

About the author

    Nikita Andester

    Nikita Andester is a Denver-based writer and graduate student of creative nonfiction. She lives full time in her camper, where she writes and whips up wholesome, plant-based meals. Her creative work can be found on Wild Musette and Loam Magazine.

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